Readers’ Letters: Catholic state education is a historical anomaly


Catholic state education is a historical anomaly: 1918’s so-called “Rome on the rates” is the result of the Catholic Church being in a position to haggle – unlike the squabbling Presbyterians forced long ago to sell their schools to municipal corporations for a pittance when schisms left them unable to afford them.

Yet for decades, most Scots Catholics left school in astounding ignorance of basic Christian tenets – let alone Catholic ones – to the extent too many still believe they must eat fish on Friday (not for 500 years!).

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Hardly surprising when the Scottish Catholic church buck-passed its advantage to cynical teachers who largely abused the mandatory weekly hour of Religious Instruction as a free period for correcting homework whilst disinterested pupils defaced the job lot books from Ireland’s antediluvian Christian Brothers they were supposed to be reading in silence (to the extent Viz even ran a contest for entries). Now it wonders why its pews lay empty long before Covid signed many churches’ death warrants.

Should separate Catholic schools be consigned to the past?

Scotland’s Catholic hierarchies had their chance and blew it. More than a hundred years later, the 1918 settlement is beyond ripe for change. I’ve no time for the cranks behind various “secular societies”, but secularisation of all taxpayer-funded education is long overdue.

Mark Boyle, Johnstone, Renfrewshire

As a change from the rather gloomy recent correspondence, please can we have a lighter note?

The Lyceum Young Company’s performance of Seven Against Edinburgh is a vibrant show with a multi-talented cast, directed by Becky Hope-Palmer and Sophie Howell. The article by Brian Ferguson (Scotsman, 21 April), says it all.

These aspiring women medical students, led by the indomitable Sophia Jex-Blake, fought against all kinds of opposition from Edinburgh University and the wider public to their admission to study medicine, despite passing all the exams. They paved the way for women finally to study at universities, although the Edinburgh Seven only received their graduation certificates posthumously in 2018.

Central to their campaign were two important figures, James Y Simpson, the renowned obstetrician, who pioneered the use of chloroform in childbirth and Alexander Russel, the editor of the Scotsman in the 1870s. His support for him was “consummated” when he went on to marry Helen Evans, one of the Seven!

The shame of it all is that the only visible reminder of the whole campaign is a small, partly obscured plaque at the unused entrance to the Surgeon’s Hall in Nicholson Street. These women and many others deserve more, in a city with more statues of animals than women.

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It is a disgrace that the Prime Minister of the UK is a blatant, compulsive liar. But as time goes on it becomes more and more obvious that a leader who is a liar is what this government actually needs, because they can’t possibly tell the truth.

Their flagship policy, Brexit, is a disaster, maybe not for the Tories and their chums, but certainly for the country, for all reasons we know: trade, Northern Ireland, investment, industrial development, and so on.

An isolated UK, with an aging population, and the kind of hard borders their supporters demand, will soon be out on a limb without immigration.

The current situation with Russia is another blow to the Government. Their policy of embracing dodgy Russian billionaires and their money doesn’t seem so smart now, and further distances them from the civilized world.

No honest Prime Minister could justify the deliberately parlous state of the NHS, not to mention the hardline austerity policies which are driving millions into poverty.

I have no sympathy whatsoever for Johnson, but I would suggest that he is a useful shield for the Tories to ditch when the heat threatens to ignite. Cometh the day, cometh the man… and Boris is just the man to carry the can.

Am I alone in expressing my frustration at the continual talk about Partygate when we are witnessing atrocities in Ukraine and soaring prices and reduced product sizes in our shops?

I have no wish to condone the actions of the Prime Minister and certainly strongly disagree with the culture that existed within government offices and departments. However, a “party” is a social occasion – in other words it is a gathering (i) for a specific purpose and (ii) separate from “normal” work patterns.

I used to attend “the office party” each Christmas. It started after hours with a drink before we left the office to enjoy a meal: it was a party. There were other occasions when at the close of a meeting someone might produce a cake to “celebrate” a birthday – this was not a party, as it was simply convenient to add a “celebration” at the end of a working situation.

In the same way I have attended schools where Friday morning break was a “cake event” where teachers enjoyed a “treat” before returning to the classroom – this was not a party.

I was also occasionally involved in “adjourning” to the local hostelry to look at an issue in a more informal setting and remember attending business meetings that had two distinct halves – a set business agenda followed by a meal in the local hostelry to further a “ team spirit”.

Number 10 was guilty of some foolish behavior – recognized by apologies and a change in the working environment – ​​but, please, these were not “parties”.

The Prime Minister was undoubtedly wrong but please let us focus on the big issues affecting our world and every family and not parties.

James Watson, Dunbar, East Lothian

Boris Johnston was accused of breaking the lockdown rules in June and November 2020. He opted not to respond to accusations until the police investigation had been concluded.

That investigation is still ongoing, but now that a £50 fine has been laid at the door of the PM, we are told there are now too many other important things to deal with (Ukraine being the big one) for him to consider resigning, as others have done when they too broke the rules. What will the excuse be when Sue Gray’s findings are finally allowed to be published?

Marion Dodd, Melrose, Scottish Borders

“Only the Conservatives can be trusted with public money,” proclaimed Tory Chancellor Rishi Sunak recently, while writing off billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money through Treasury incompetence.

“Criminals should quake in their boots,” said Priti Patel, Home Secretary of the party of law and order, as Boris Johnson refuses to accept laws were broken in Downing Street during lockdown, despite the police issuing multiple purposes.

“We are the party of low taxation,” trumpeted Boris Johnson in 2021 as taxes rose to their highest rates since the 1940s.

“But he got the big calls right,” claim his dwindling number of supporters. So if law and order, public money and low taxation are no longer “big calls”, what does Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party actually stand for these days?

I am given to understand, while on my current visit to the capital city, that a Low Emission Zone is planned to be established soon.

Auld Reekie was understandably the deserved epithet for the antique Old Town, but since then the residential population has diversified, not least to the impressively airy New Town.

Edinburgh is also home to much advanced science. I have not (yet) been told of evaluation plans but surely one would expect thorough measurements of air pollution and its distribution across the city to be undertaken and published, both before and well into the LEZ, to demonstrate its utility.

Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed, on ITV’s Loose Women, that she’d resign if she were to lose another independence referendum, were one ever to take place (Scotsman, 21 April). Another great reason to vote against Scexit.

Martin Redfern, Melrose, Scottish Borders

Following the apocalyptic warning about autumn energy price increases by ScottishPower chief Keith Anderson, it’s time to suspend the Renewables Levy.

At present this tax costs consumers in the region of £150 per year. No doubt it was justifiable when introduced but it never would have been introduced had the energy market been as volatile as it is today.

Even allowing for the smoke and mirrors effect of the so-called wholesale energy market, one assumes that rising consumer prices equate to more profit for energy providers. They should thus be able to afford to invest in infrastructure without expecting the hard-pressed consumer to fund it.

R.A. Wallace, Kincardine, Fife

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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